New community initiative gains momentum
by Marie Baron
It’s a simple concept that could influence the lives of thousands in our community. That’s the power of mentoring and the message presented by One Wyoming 1 on 1 to business leaders at a recent luncheon held at the headquarters of Gordon Food Services. Over 80 attendees from local businesses such as YMCA, Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids Medical Center and Edward Jones to name a few, came to learn how they can make a difference in the lives of Wyoming students grades K through 12.
“Volunteering to be a mentor one hour a week during the school year is all it takes to make a positive impact,” says Jack Ponstine, coordinator for One Wyoming 1 on 1. “Not only does it make a huge difference in the lives of the students, but in the lives of the mentors as well. This is a great opportunity to build a legacy for our community.”
The organization’s first collaborative meeting was held over a year ago between city, school, church, and business leaders of Wyoming at Grace Bible College to focus on helping the youth of Wyoming. Officially, the initiative of One Wyoming 1 on 1 kicked off last last May with one focused goal: to connect 1100 students in Wyoming Public, Kelloggsville, Godwin Heights and Godfrey-Lee school districts with encouraging adult mentors. Ponstine says that since then, the program has attracted 560 mentors. “That’s a little over half and we are really excited about that!
Our goal is to have 10% of the students of Wyoming having a one on one mentor thatwill help them develop a stronger vision for a positive and prosperous future,” he states.
Helping to explain the project to employers were several local leaders including Dr. Tom Reeder, Superintendent of Wyoming Public Schools, Rev. Eddy Brewer, Executive Pastor of Grand Rapids First Assembly. Tommy Brann, owner of Brann’s Steakhouse, and Wyoming Director of Police and Fire Services, Chief James Carmody. Chief Carmody brought along a special guest – he mentee, Justice.
“I believe he’s the future of our community,” the chief explained. “When we first met, I asked him if it would hurt his reputation hanging out with me because I wore a uniform. He said, ‘No, I think it’s cool. Nobody bothers me.’
“I’ll be a part of his life for a long time to come,” says Carmody.
The process for becoming a mentor starts with deciding to commit to a student one hour of your time a week during the school day for one school year. Those interested are encouraged to visit the organization’s website and fill out an application. Individuals can choose the school and the age range of the child they’d like to mentor. All applicants are subject to a background check by the school they choose to serve. When approved, volunteers will undergo a brief training session before meeting their student. Once introduced, how to spend the mentoring time is typically up to the students.
One mentor said that with every visit, she grows closer to her sixth grade student who’s mother died last year. “We’re developing a very special bond that I want to continue after this school year. I’m going to request to be her her mentor until she graduates.”
For more information on this unique community program and to find out how to become involved, visit the One Wyoming 1 on 1 website.